How to Get a Job in UK Film Production
What You Need to Know
- To break into the industry you will need to be prepared to take on a fair amount on unpaid work and, even at this stage, competition will be fierce.
- Whilst many areas of the industry are over subscribed, others are facing a shortage. Craftsmen and production accountants, for example, are in demand.
- All most everyone working in production starts off as a runner.
- Runners mostly face long hours of menial work for low pay. This will test your dedication and enthusiasm, but will also allow you to learn more about the working environment.
- Whilst any number of qualifications can help you appear capable enough to tackle the job, you can do specific courses to give you valued production skills.
- Experience is always the biggest factor in getting production jobs. Generally, you need to be prepared to grind your way to the top.
You don’t need to be the next Kate Winslet or Orlando Bloom to play a part in the British film industry – but you do need to start at the bottom, be prepared to fight off stiff competition even for unpaid jobs, and work hard at thankless tasks.
For example, you could spend a day in a rainy field guarding a gate to ensure no public come through – so a sense of humour is vital.
Increase your chances of getting in by finding out about the range of jobs in the business. There is a shortage of production accountants, for instance, and skilled craftsmen are also in demand.
Most people start in the British film business as a “runner” – the most junior job in most departments of the film industry – no matter what previous training they have had. This is true even for technical jobs such as camera operators and director of photography.
Learning on the job
Everyone learns on the job. A runner fetches and carries and helps out with whatever needs doing. It’s the standard way to learn how the film industry works and helps build contacts in the business that will get you more work.
Runners are freelancers and have to find their own jobs. Contact production companies and independent filmmakers and offer your services. You need to be willing to do anything. Don't underestimate the importance of enthusiasm –but do highlight knowledge or experience in your CV and mention any contacts.
Expect to work long hours on low pay. Typical rates for runners start at around £59 for an eight-hour day and £236 for a 40-hour week, rising to £103 for a 12-hour day and £520 for a 72-hour a week.
Another – and possibly easier – way to gain all-important experience is to take unpaid work on low-budget or student films. A website such as ShootingPeople, which is run by filmmakers for filmmakers, is a good place to find opportunities.
A final way to get a foot in the door is to take a training course. A scheme run by Creative Skillset means more people can now gain the skills they need to get into the business. Under Creative Skillset's Film Skills Trainee Network, successful applicants are offered advice, workshops and work experience, a select number of whom need no previous experience.
You can also find courses via the British Film Institute’s website, which lists 4,000 courses at locations all around the UK.
Check that the tutors’ currently work or have worked in the industry so they have good contacts, that there is enough up-to-date equipment for hands-on experience and that the course offers work placements.
However, the best qualification remains experience and even with a recognised qualification you will still be expected to start at the bottom. Take any chance you can to work on any film. Local and regional arts boards may know of local film initiatives.
Once you have some experience and industry contacts, jobs may start coming to you – and you might even get paid.
The BBC website has information on how to make low-budget films and how to win funding.
- There are many other jobs in the film industry you might be interested in. Read our guide to becoming a make-up artist for more information.
- Building up a resume of relevant experience is very important in film. Read our guide to CV writing to ensure yours shine through.